Valley Bounty: Lamb

Well before the buds bloom on the trees, the earliest sign of spring on many farms across the Valley is the cry of newly-born lambs in the barn. I recently spoke with Jennifer Core, who runs Hettie Belle Farm in Warwick with her partner Olivier Flagollet and their two young daughters. Jennifer explained that as the family cares for the flock throughout the winter months, they keep a careful eye on the ewes’ swelling bellies. “We’re constantly playing family games about how many lambs we think are in this sheep or that sheep. We all make our predictions, and everyone has their favorite.” Once lambing season begins in mid-February, her daughters celebrate it like a second Christmas. “You don’t know what will be awaiting you every time you go to the barn!”

Lambing season typically runs through the end of March, and during that period Jennifer and Olivier try to be there for every birth. When complications arise, the couple plays the role of the midwife. Serving such an intimate role in their animals’ lives from birth forges a strong bond between the family and the herd. “We work through this process of caring for and loving on these little babies a lot while making sense of the fact that their destiny is people’s plates. We help our kids make sense of that for themselves, that you can love something and take really good care of it while its lifespan is short and has a particular purpose. That’s okay and there can be meaning in that.”

One of the family’s favorite lamb meals are Denver-style ribs, which Jennifer describes as the short ribs of the lamb. First, Jennifer mixes Dijon mustard, salt, garlic, and rosemary with wine (red or white) to make a paste. She massages the rub into the ribs and tosses them in a slow cooker. She cooks them on low for 8-10 hours until the meat is practically falling off the bone. Try out Jennifer’s tender Denver-style ribs recipe with mashed potatoes for a hearty early spring dinner!

Valley Bounty is written by Noah Baustin of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)